Category: Fitness

12 Week Beginners Walking Program

Before you begin, let’s find out how fit you are.

If you have followed me for any length of time, you will know that I love to get out and walk, or hike on wooded trails. Walking is one of the best restorative exercises that almost everyone can do. Best of all, walking does not require any expensive gym memberships or any fancy equipment, including fitness trackers. Walking is something you have done all of your life with the exception of maybe fitness walking, so there is not a whole lot for you to learn in order to get the most benefit out of this beneficial, cheap and easy exercise.

First things first, if you are obviously out of shape and specifically, if you have any health problems, please get clearance from your physician before beginning any exercise program.

If you are physically cleared, you are going to need to know exactly where you stand in regards to being physically fit. This is a must, please do not overlook this step. You are going to need to know your recovery heart rate, or how fast your heart rate returns to it’s normal rate after you engage in vigorous exercise. This is going to let you know how efficient your heart operates. This test is easy to perform and does not require you to go out and buy any kind of expensive fitness tracker. Before you go out and spend a $100 US or more on a fitness tracker, you might want to see if you are even going to stick with a program first, and then buy one at a later date. All you need for this initial test is someone to keep time for you, however, you can do it for yourself too.

Next, dress out in comfortable clothing with a good fitting pair of shoes and find either a stair or something sturdy like a stool which you can step onto and off of for a period of 3 minutes.  Begin by stepping onto the step or stool first with your right foot, then up with your left foot. Step down with your right foot, then with your left, and repeat this with an even pace for 3 minutes. Once you have completed your 3 minutes, rest for 30 seconds before taking your pulse rate.

How to take your pulse: Find your heartbeat by placing your index and middle fingers on either your carotid artery (on your neck in one of the grooves along side our windpipe) or your radial artery (on your wrist near your thumb). Using a watch, count the number of beats in a 15 second period. Then multiply this number by four to determine your heart rate per minute.

Compare your pulse rate with the below figures:

Women

Age 30 – 39  Very Fit  <78  Fit 78-99  Avg. 100-109  Unfit  >109

Age 40-49    Very Fit  <80  Fit 80-100  Avg. 101-112 Unfit >112

Age 50-59    Very Fit  <86  Fit 86-105  Avg. 106-115 Unfit >115

Age 60-69   Very Fit  <90  Fit 90-108   Avg. 109-118 Unfit >118

Men

Age 30-39   Very Fit  <84  Fit 84-105  Avg. 106-122 Unfit >122

Age 40-49   Very Fit  <88  Fit 88-108  Avg. 109-118 Unfit >118

Age 50-59   Very Fit  <92  Fit 92-113  Avg. 114-123 Unfit >123

Age 60-69   Very Fit  <95  Fit 95-117  Avg. 118-127 Unfit >127

This walking program is geared towards helping the unfit and the person of average fitness towards gaining a life of physical fitness. If you have any history, symptoms, or major risk factors for heart disease such as smoking, diabetes, or severe obesity, do not take this test or begin any exercise program without your doctors approval!

How vigorous is your workout?

The best way for you to gauge the intensity of your workout is to check your heart rate.Your target heart rate is the pulse you are aiming for when you work out. The safe but effective range is between 50 to 85% of your maximum heart rate – the rate you should never exceed. To calculate your maximum rate, subtract your age from 220. If you are 45 years old, your maximum rate is 175 (220-45=175) beats per minute. Your target range is 88 to 149 beats per minute. (.50 or .85 x 175) . The American Heart Association suggests you aim for the following target heart rates:

Age    Target Heart Rate / Maximum Heart Rate

30      95 to 142 bpm              190 bpm

35      93 to 138 bpm             185 bpm

40      90 to 135 bpm             180 bpm

45      85 to 131 bpm             175 bpm

50      85 to 127 bpm             170 bpm

55      83 to 123 bpm             165 bpm

60     80 to 120 bpm              160 bpm

65     78 to 116 bpm              155 bpm

70     75 to 113 bpm              150 bpm

12 Week Walking Program

Week 1

  • 5 times per week
  • Warm up with 5 minutes slow walking
  • Walk 10 minutes at 50 to 60% maximum heart rate
  • Cool down with 5 minutes slow walking

Week 2

  • 5 times per week
  • Warm up, 5 minutes
  • 15 minutes at 50 to 60% maximum heart rate
  • Cool down, 5 minutes

Week 3

  • 5 times per week
  • Warm up, 5 minutes
  • 20 minutes at 50 to 60% maximum heart rate
  • Cool down, 5 minutes

Week 4

  • 5 times per week
  • Warm up, 5 minutes
  • 20 minutes at 60% maximum heart rate
  • Cool down, 5 minutes

Week 5

  • 5 times per week
  • Warm up 5 minutes
  • 20 minutes at 60 to 70% maximum heart rate
  • Cool down, 5 minutes

Week 6

  • 5 times per week
  • Warm up 5 minutes
  • 20 minutes at 60 to 70% maximum heart rate
  • Cool down, 5 minutes

Week 7

  • 5 times per week
  • Warm up 5 minutes
  • 25 minutes at 60 to 70% maximum heart rate
  • Cool down, 5 minutes

Week 8

  • 5 times per week
  • Warm up 5 minutes
  • 25 minutes at 70% maximum hear rate
  • Cool down, 5 minutes

Week 9

  • 5 times per week
  • Warm up 5 minutes
  • 30 minutes at 70% maximum heart rate
  • Cool down, 5 minutes

Week 10

  • 5 times per week
  • Warm up 5 minutes
  • 35 minutes at 70% maximum heart rate
  • Cool down 5 minutes

Week 11

  • 3 times per week
  • Warm up 5 minutes
  • 35 minutes at 70% maximum heart rate
  • Cool down 5 minutes
  • 2 times per week
  • Warm up 5 minutes
  • 30 minutes at 70% maximum heart rate, including 5 minutes of hills or stairs
  • Cool down, 5 minutes

Week 12

  • 3 times per week
  • Warm up 5 minutes
  • 35 minutes at 70% maximum heart rate
  • Cool down, 5 minutes
  • 2 times per week
  • Warm up 5 minutes
  • 30 minutes at 70% maximum heart rate, including 10 minutes of hills or stairs
  • Cool down, 5 minutes

Watch your form!

You already know how to walk, it’s a no brainer to know that one foot goes in front of the next. But, how is your posture when you are out walking? Many people will slump over when they walk which can end up giving them problems with muscle strains, pains in the neck, lower back and hips. As you walk, hold your chest up and tuck in your gut which is helping to support your back. Every few minutes, evaluate your posture as you are walking and straighten up as needed.

Have fun, find a beautiful place to walk and get yourself fit!

 

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Stick To Your “Diet”

BRAVO!

So, you have decided to get get healthy! Good for you, now let’s look at what it may take to make that lofty ideal become a reality. I could not possibly count or remember the times that I made that decision only to crash and burn. Don’t let that happen to you. David’s Way has been the only program that has sustained me at an ever increasing rate of health and stamina. I’m 62 and work a full time job and a part time job and spend countless hours blogging. I work out hard and regularly. I care for a special needs family member and pets. Health is everything. I have also been told that I deny my age in many ways and I know that I am not typical. You can achieve these results but only if you are diligent in your program.

The Difference

Decide on a strong motivation. Before beginning David’s Way, my primary motivation was to look good. While that is still very important to me, my health is my strongest motivation. That works well together because when we are strong and healthy we look good. It’s impossible to look great for a long time if we are unhealthy. Health exudes confidence which causes us to make more and more positive changes and we look better and better. I challenge you to define your motivation to stick to your program. While mine is health and looking like an athlete, yours may be different. Whatever it is, it should be the most important thing in the world to you. If you can have a strong motivation, you are much more likely to be successful on an ongoing basis. I have decided that I want to be at 14% body fat and be clearly defined in my torso. My body fat is a little higher at about 18% but I am getting new definition all the time. I will not rest until I can see the outline of every muscle in my body.

Get Real

Set realistic goals. We would all like to wave a magic wand over our heads and POOF! skinny. Well, that’s not going to happen. I have been working David’s Way for about a year and a half and I am the strongest and sleekest that I have ever been but believe me, it did not happen quickly. Our bodies have to have time to make positive changes. Start working your program without borders or deadlines. Commit and do it until you see results and do it again. That’s how it works. When we want to lose weight and get in shape fast. we set ourselves up for failure.

Set Yourself Up to Succeed

If you have foods or drinks that you can’t seem to resist for Heaven’s sake, don’t have them in the house. Don’t say they are “for the kids” or some other family member. If they are not good for you, they are not good for them. Just say “NO!”

Avoid “All or Nothing” Thinking

So often when we are trying to stick to a program and we slip and eat something , or a lot of something, that we shouldn’t have, we ditch the whole idea. That will cause you to fail every time. When you lose control, merely regain it. Immediately decide what you need to do for the rest of that day and do it. Make sure to get adequate protein to quell hunger and move on. If you wait for the perfect day to stay “on track”, you may never get on track again.

Speaking of Protein

Always have healthy, high protein snacks available at home, on the road and at work. The protein will quell your hunger enough to help you fight off cravings for simple carbs and empty calories. This is especially important if you are in a situation where you can’t eat a full meal on time. The high protein snacks will get you through the fast with energy to spare. Almonds, jerky, hard-boiled eggs cheese and Greek yogurt are great, portable, high protein snacks.

Work Out and Manage Your Food Simultaneously

Good habits reinforce each other. When we manage our food and work out together, we see faster results than if we do either alone. Sometimes people think that if they work out, then they can eat whatever they want. That is simply not true. David always says that you can’t outrun a bad diet. I know avid athletes that are hard core to the point of needing to budget for medical care for injuries and they still have a pot belly because they think they can eat and drink anything. Wrong. We need balance. Our bodies seek a state of homeostasis, or balance. Do your part to help your body find this balance and your body will yield benefits beyond your wildest dreams.

Women and Strength Training

I want to address the topic of strength training and women in this article and hopefully clear up a few misconceptions. Over the last few years, I have had several women ask me about how they should best approach resistance training and they are about always surprised when I recommend they train with the exact same exercises as a man would do, the only difference being the amount of weight used as a starting point.

Women who regularly train with weights can improve their health, develop a healthier self esteem with a higher degree of self confidence, reduce their risk of degenerative diseases such as osteoporosis and they can enhance their athletic capabilities. In the past, some women have questioned the value of strength training and have even avoided it because of social stigmas, and or the fear of getting too big.

You might even believe that training with a barbell is too hard for a woman to attempt.

Current evidence clearly displays that women are perfectly capable of tolerating and adapting to the stresses of strength training, and the benefits of doing so are quite substantial. An excellent example of how strength training benefits women, even those who are older, is our very own Brenda Sue whom I have been training via online videos for the last year and a half. Brenda Sue asked me for weight training advice and I took her on as a trainee. Despite being a 62 year old female, I began her on the same training program I would any young man, only at a lighter starting weight. Her strength gains have been remarkable to say the least, and it is incredible how much it has improved every other area of her life through being stronger physically and mentally. These qualities bring on a higher sense of self confidence which simply makes the tasks we face every day seem much easier. Brenda Sue has learned that if she can rise back up from a heavy squat, then she can tackle anything else that comes her way.

Sex differences, body size and composition.

Obviously because of differences in strength between men and women, some approaches to strength training might need to vary by a small degree. That being said, there are many men who are weaker than many women when they begin strength training too so this is not as large an issue as some might believe.

Before puberty, there are essentially no differences in height, weight and body size between boys and girls. As the children begin going through puberty, the differences between boys and girls becomes more evident primarily because of hormonal changes. During puberty the production of estrogen in girls increases fat deposition and the development of breasts. Whereas testosterone in boys increases bone formation and protein synthesis. Though estrogen also stimulates bone growth, boys have a longer growth period, and thereby adult men tend to achieve greater stature than women. On average, women tend to have more body fat and less muscle than men. Women also tend to weigh less than men, yet require a higher amount of body fat for good health than a man requires. Anthropometric measurements of adults indicate that men have broader shoulders relative to their hips and women tend to have broader hips relative to their waists and shoulders. The broader shoulders of men can support more muscle tissue and can also provide a mechanical advantage for muscles acting at the shoulder. Yet, again I still maintain there not be weight training programs that have to be different solely because of the differences in the sexes as our anatomies and physiology is not that different. We might have a difference in our build, yet we have the exact same muscle groups, our cardiovascular systems are also the same. Women prove every day they are just as capable of performing the same physical tasks as men. In a world where my fellow men feel they need to prove their manliness, I will tell you straight up that I would rather work with a woman who can physically pull their load than with a weak man who cannot. This was true both when I was in the military and during my period as a maximum security correctional officer.

Strength and power output.

When comparing training induced changes in muscular strength between men and women, it is important to distinguish between absolute and relative measures. In terms of absolute strength, women generally have about two thirds the strength of men. The absolute lower body strength of women is generally closer to male values, as compared to the absolute values for upper body strength. Gender related differences in body composition. anthropometric characteristics, and fat free mass distribution can partly explain these differences.

When compared on a relative basis, gender related differences in muscular strength are greatly reduced. Because the average man and woman differ considerably in body size, it is useful to compare gender differences in strength relative to body weight, fat free mass and muscle cross sectional area. When expressed relative to body weight, the lower body strength of women is similar to that of men, while their upper body strength is still somewhat less. If comparisons are made to fat free mass, differences in strength between men and women tend to disappear. It is interesting that but there is data that suggests that eccentric strength may be more similar between men and women than concentric strength when compared to relative fat free mass.

When strength is expressed relative to muscle cross sectional area, no significant difference exits between genders, which indicates that muscle quality is not gender specific. Granted that the muscle fibers in men and women are also similar in fiber type distribution and histochemical characteristics, never the less men tend to have larger muscle fiber cross sectional area than women. Notwithstanding the importance of these observations, we need to remember that there is a wide range of strength abilities and that in some cases differences between two women may in fact be greater than the difference between a man and woman.

In terms of absolute strength, women are generally weaker than men because of their lower quantity of muscle. When compared relative to muscle cross sectional area, no differences in strength exists between genders, which indicates that muscle quality is not gender specific.

Strength training for women.

Despite gender related differences, men and women respond to resistance training in similar ways from pre-training baselines. Although the magnitude of change in selected variables may differ to some degree, the overall value of resistance exercise for women extends far beyond an increase muscular strength and includes favorable changes in other important measures of health and fitness.

Being as the physiological characteristics of muscle between the genders are the same, there is no sensible reason why weight training programs for women need to be any different from that of men. In fact, because the muscle groups involved are the same for men and women, resistance programs should be designed to improve the performance of the muscles involved regardless of gender. It is a misconception that weight training programs for women should be any different from those of men. It is also a misconception that women lose flexibility and become bulky from weight training. The only difference required between weight training programs for men and women is generally the amount of weight used for a given lift.

Ladies next time you balk at the idea of strength training, consider female Olympic athletes such as gymnasts who are able to perform 40 pull ups and competitive female weight lifters who can lift over two times their body weight. These outstanding female athletes display what is possible through strength training. For another excellent example of what is possible when a woman commits herself to “Life under the Iron”, take a good hard look at our own Brenda Sue for inspiration. This little lady is 62 years old, weighs about 135 pounds, and can deadlift 190 pounds, and will soon surpass 200. Brenda Sue has become strong without becoming bulky, her health and level of fitness are that of a twenty something, her self esteem and confidence levels are at an all time high.

I will place this topic on our new forum where you can comment or ask either of us questions. I am positive Brenda Sue will share some of her fitness secrets with you there. Lets get the forum up and rolling!

Beginning Diet and Fitness

I’m never sure we can ever address the beginning pitfalls of diet and exercise for beginners enough. Afterall, statisitcs show that 90% of people who begin diet and exercise regimens fail them. They might lose a good amount of weight only to regain those pounds and then some once they quit their diets and exercise. Obesity is a chronic condition that we bring upon ourselves, and once we become obese, it is almost impossible for most to ever reverse the trend.

Again, obesity is a chronic condition that we bring on upon ourselves.

We have to take deep personal responsibility for ourselves in order to reverse obesity. The only caveat to obesity being a self inflicted condition is when we have children whose parents allow them to become this way. Of course there are children who are genetically predisposed to obesity, the reality is in western society, we have far too many parents who are lazy in their parental responsibilities. Look around in your grocery store at all the sugar sweetened junk foods that are targeted towards our youngsters. If these products were not selling good, the manufactures would not be producing them for the consumer. If this paragraph pisses you off, and your child is sitting in front of a television snarfing down powedered sugar donuts or anything else sugary, you had best re-evaluate yourself.

If you buy the groceries, you control what your children eat.

It is as simple as that.

We have a responsibility to our children to raise them to be as healthy as they can be. As I stated above obesity is a chronic condition that 90% of people fail at overcoming. As humans, when we become overweight our fat cells do not just puff up, they actually change our biology. Our bodies will respond as if the obese condition is normal for us, and thusly, will begin protecting our fat stores like a mother protecting her newborn baby. It is tough for adults to lose weight, therefore we must do all that we can to protect our children from becoming obese and educate them how to avoid ever becoming so.

Permanently losing weight through diet and exercise is tough, yet is is not impossible.

With diet and exercise we will often say that we wil begin a new routine beginning tomorrow, next week or even next month.

Why? How about thinking that if this decision is important, then begin it right now, as the longer you procrastinate a diet or exercise, the more time you will have to justify putting it off even longer. The perfect moment to get healthy is right now. There is no guarantee you will even see tomorrow. Make it a point to live to your highest potential every day.

Quit over thinking diet and exercise!

Enjoying healthy dietary habits is not rocket science. You do not require any special diet, and you damn sure do not need any fad or gimmick diets that promise you quick weight loss results. Especially if the fad or gimmick requires you to pay money in order to follow them.

Whether you pay for a fad diet or weight loss gimmick or not, plan to lose about 10 pounds the first month as they will often promise you. Next, you should expect to fall off of the fad and then, you can expect to regain those lost pounds with a swiftness.

With every diet, you can expect to lose a good amount of weight in the first few weeks to month and then the losses will rapidly slow down. This happens to everyone wthout exception.

Fad and gimmick diets almost always guarantee up to 10 pounds of lost weight in the first month and this is actually near meaningless in terms of actually getting healthy. With the exception of certain health conditions, your focus needs to be on your body fat only.

The rapid weight loss from fads and gimmicks is almost entirely a result of lost water weight. This loss is a biological response where your body releases water as a result of tapping into your glycogen stores once you have cut back on your calories and carbohydrate intake. Fat mass does not rapidly change in your body and you need to know that your weight can fluctuate by 5 pounds in a single day simply by the amount of water your body is holding onto. You can actually urinate over 4 pounds of urine in a single day.

Get you mind right!

If you are solely trying to lose weight because of vanity reasons, you need to change your thought process and prioroties. Your focus needs to be first and foremost on losing body fat in order to actually live a full and healthy life. By living for a healthy life, your vanity will take care of itself. If your body and mind are healthy, you will appear healthy. If your body is strong you will look strong. There is no faking this no matter what type of clothing you might want to wear through out the year. When you are pudgy, nothing can hide or disguise it.

No special diets or gimmicks are ever necessary to attain a healthy level of body fat.

What is required is personal discipline to not give into the instant gratification, or feeling of reward we receive when biting into a sweet treat. What is required is making your mind up to only consume foods that are nutritionally sound, foods that are not full of empty calories, added sugar and chemical preservatives. Instead of taking the lazy way out for a meal by ordering delivery pizza or going through the local fast food drive through, get your butt off the couch and actually prepare and cook a healthy meal. Cooking a healthy meal does not need be expensive, nor does it take any exotic ingredients, thought processes or complicated steps. You can prepare a dinner of your choice of protein along with any types of vegetables in less than 15 minutes with only a small amount of effort. When you eat nutritionally sound foods, your body will quit it’s cravings for sugar laden junk foods in a fairly short amount of time. You have to decide to make the personal choice of living with a bit of discipline and quit chasing after the instant rewards of junk foods like a junkie looking for his next fix. Make your mind up that you are not going to wimp out every time you spot a candy bar, Given enough time, you will come to understand and appreciate that nothing tastes as good as being fit and trim feels.

If you really feel the need for an occasional treat, you can simply use our blog search function and find a vast array of delicious sugar free dessert recipes. We have either created these recipes ourselves, or modified existing recipes to remove all simple sugars in order for you to enjoy them without ever getting cravings later in the day for simple carbohydrates. Every recipe has been tested before we have published them for your use.

Without going onto any diet, you need to adopt healthy eating as a lifestyle that does not include added sugar or simple carbohydrates unless they come from fruits or vegetable where there is a fiber componenet that regulates how the sugars enter your blood stream. Simple sugars dump into your blood stream which throws your insulin into over drive. Simple sugars, like amphetamines, will give you a pick me up emotionally, then you will crash and crave more. You need to wrap your mind around the fact that you cannot hope to lose body fat to a healthy level by holding onto your unhealthy habits of the past. Odds are that if you became obese because you had no control over your appetite for sugary, high carbohydrate foods in the past, you will not have control in the future. You must get your mind right in regards to living a healthy life over just getting rid of your muffin top that protrudes over your pants top. This is not me trying to be mean, it is reality.

Do not over think diet and exercise!

As with diet, people tend to far over think exercise. Healthy exercise that will help you with getting fit does not require expensive gym memberships, fancy attire, nor high tech equipment.

Get your body up and move it with enough intensity to raise your heart rate into the fat burning zone where you can still have a conversation, only you want your speech to come labored. If you cannot talk, your intensity is too high. If you can speak as easy as you could before beginning your exercise, then you need to pick it up in intensity as you are doing damn near nothing towards burning fat. This is true whether you are walking, dancing, lifing weights or any other activity you decide to adopt.

If you do not know where to begin with exercise, get your tail outside and go for a brisk walk. Unless you have a true physical limitation to preclude this, then there is no reason you can not do it. My 79 year old mother walks a mile and a half every day even when there is snow on the ground. Unless it is pouring down rain when she wants to walk, she gets it done. If it is pouring down rain, she goes when it stops or lets up. This walking requires no programming, no special clothes, no special preparation and costs nothing, yet she reaps many rewards from it as she has a healthy body and mind. I do not care how poor or broke you might be, you can still afford to get out and walk.

If you believe you might want to work into jogging or running, I do advise that you buy a decent pair of shoes desgned for running or jogging. Shoes are something we all need anyhow, so it does not need to be an extravigant extra expense to you. We all need and wear shoes.

For jogging or running, do not put it off until ou can buy yourself any of the popular fitness trackers that so many wear today. The devices are nothing more than a luxury and not a necessity. You can map out a route with the gps on your phone if you want to know your distances. The reality is you need to raise your heart rate into the fat burning zone and then keep it there for at least 30 minutes since it takes 20 minutes to burn through your glycogen stores before your body begins burning fat for energy. A Fitbit or fitness tracker of any type is not going to make you magically burn off more fat.

If you are new to jogging or running, do yourself a favor and ease into increasing your speed, time and distance. Otherwise, you can injure yourself with shin splints, joint and tendon issues. While you need to push yourself, you need to temper this as you stand a good chance of burning out before your body has even began to get close to being conditioned.

Always remember that physical fitness is also about proper nutrition and rest for recovery purposes as I have written about in my article Fitness Triad. If you do not eat enough or get proper rest, you will soon burn out and quit your exercise regimen. The less you have exercised in the past, the worse the problem of burn out will be for you.

I have written numerous articles on the benefits of strength training in order to maintain or build upon your lean musle mass which drives your metabolism to burn fat more efficiently. You can enter key words such as “strength training” into our blog search bar and see everything I have published on this topic. If you decide to incorporate a strength training regimen into your life, whether you are a man or a woman, you need to start out much lighter than you might feel is necessary, and build up in weight, reps and sets slowly. Learning form is first and foremost and must be done with manageable weight and in a rep range where you are not too fatigued to retain proper form. Improper form can hurt you now, or in the futre.

As I have written about exhaustively, you must know that with strength training, nurtition and rest are vitally important.

If you are going to strength train, you need a well rounded program that addresses all of your body and not specific muscles only. If you do a pushing exercise, then you also must do a corresponding pulling exercise in order to not create muscular and strength imbalances that can lead to injury and also just looks bad for the vain. You need to work your body from the tips of your toes to the tips of your fingers and every where in between.

For effective strength training, you need to have a set program and keep a log in order to track your progress. There will be times where you wll stall out, everyone does. With a written record you can look back and see how far you have come. Also, keeping a log is a form of measurement. I always say “what gets measured gets done”.

Fancy and or expensive equipment for strength training is not required. Equipment does not need to be pretty, it needs to be effective and heavy for you. Before going out and buying expensive equipment, try buying used gear online for much cheaper. Strength training is hard work that takes persoanl discipline and great effort. Many people burn out and quit before they even do their bodies any good. There is an abundnace of equipement to be had for cheap as most of it becomes a place where many find a convenient place to hang clothing.

Remember the KISS principle with diet and exercise. Keep It Simple Stupid.

With your nutritional needs, it is difficult to eat enough to gain weight when you eat healthy whole foods without added sugars. It is easy to lose weight when you quit eating foods of convenience. It is easy to maintain a healthy body fat percentage when do not eat simple sugars or processed foods. When you do not bring these products into your home, it does not even take any thought to prepare healthy foods when that is all that you have on hand. If you do not bring cookies and cakes into your home, they are not there to tempt you. If you quit eating added sugar, your body will quit craving it.

If not for the fact I require a certain amount of calories to fuel my physical fitness routine, I would not even count calories. To fuel my routines, I have to actualy force myself on some days to eat enough since healthy whole foods are quite satisfying to the appetite. When your body is getting all of its required nutritional needs, you will not crave anything else. You will not want anything else. This is simple and does not require anything complicated and is maintainable. In fact, the only time discipline is even required is during the period where you are adjusting to no sugar and getting your mind wrapped around living healthy for life.

With your exercise, do not over think what you are going to do. There are programs available on the internet such as Couch to 5K where you can ease your way up from being a couch potato into being able to run in a 5K race in a fairly short amount of time for one example.

Be careful of who and what you follow from the internet though as I have written about in my article Wastes of Time in the Gym. Do not get pulled in by complicated exercises and think you can only find success by doing them too. This thinking is hog wash. For instance, on one very popular weight loss sight forum, there is a very popular character with numerous followers who is always doing push ups where he is hopping around from side to side or in circles while doing them. Or he might be doing foolishness such as doing a few from the ground, then from the tops of dumbbells balanced on end, then back to the ground. All of this malarky might look pretty cool to the uninformed, many might want to emulate him as he appears to be some kind of fitness expert. Yet, he does his push ups with poor form, without going a full range of motion and openly admits that he may soon require shoulder joint replacement surgery. Never fall into thinking you need to be able to do what those who showboat are doing. These showboat exercises are not necessary and can lead to permenent injury. You do not want that for yourself.

Friends, just remember that weight management and exercise takes personal discipline that gets easier over time when you incorporate healthy habits as a lifestyle for good instead of as something temporary with a stopping point. If you focus on a stopping point in order to resume your former unhealthy life habits, then you are doomed to repeat all of them along with a greater fat gain.

Questions and comments are always welcome here!

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You Have The Power

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Let’s Get Real

I am an Encourager by nature. I prefer to write articles that spur you to make positive changes through mostly positive reinforcement. Unfortunately, there are situations and statistics in my environment and the world at large that require my attention today in a whole different way. A large part of the Earth’s population is eating itself to death. Today I am appalled at the disease and dysfunction that we bring on ourselves and on those that we profess to love. I am not guiltless in this offense. It has only been in recent years that I have quit bringing sugar into my house. When we truly realize how destructive empty calories are, we are accountable for that knowledge. Who is depending on you to make healthy choices for them? Who needs you to live a long time and be healthy? Are you being accountable?

Childhood Overweight and Obesity

As of a 2016 World Health Organization study (1) there was an estimated 41 million overweight children in the world under the age of five. Think about that. Children that are solely dependent on adults to feed them are overweight. That is the caregiver’s fault. These children are more likely to develop noncommunicable diseases like diabetes and heart disease at a younger age and carry those diseases into adulthood. When we allow our children to dictate their menu to us, we are setting them up for a lifetime of ill health. When we pull up to the sign at the drive-thru and they start screaming for “dessert with that” it’s all too easy to give them what they want in an effort to keep peace. The answer to this dilemma is to drive past, not through, and make a quick meal at home. A cold cut sandwich made with high quality sandwich meats is better than that carb laden kid’s meal that they are wanting. I have noticed that quite often when children get these meals, they want to upgrade the dessert into a huge adult portion such as a milkshake or a cookie as big as your head. When this happens the already negative health impact of a lot of these meals skyrockets. Since it’s so hard to deal with these temper tantrums of a sugar addicted child at the window, just go home. You can make a meal in the time that you would set at the drive-thru at rush hour. It’s not quick to get through that line. Keep chicken tenderloins on hand and saute them and give them a serving of a dipping sauce that they like. Most children love a baked potato with their favorite toppings. That takes 15 minutes. Open a can of green beans and let them simmer until they are almost dry while you are preparing the chicken and potato. BAM! Dinner in less time than you would have set at the drive-thru. We have to rethink our habits. We have been duped into thinking that fast food is fast. No, it’s usually not and then you have to consider the time and money that you will almost certainly be out when that child gets sick more often. Is this a price that you are willing to pay?

Just the Facts

According to the World Health Organization, (2) raised Body Mass Indexes increase the risk of breast, colon, prostate, endometrium, kidney and gallbladder cancer. Overweight and obesity have adverse effects on blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides and insulin resistance. The risk of coronary heart disease, ischemic stroke and Type 2 diabetes mellitus increase steadily in relation to an increasing BMI. Mortality rates increase with increasing degrees of overweight and obesity. So often we try to rationalize our behavior but is the cost of gluttony really worth the extra food and sugar. Sugar is so calorie dense that it causes rapid weight gain. As each fat cell is born, there is a chance of error in that individual DNA code. If that happens, you may have cancer. Cancer is a healthy cell that got the wrong code. Sugar can increase your odds of developing cancer simply by increasing the number of times that you generate a cell. When you create more cells, there’s more chances for your body to get this wrong.

What Happened?

In 1975 the obesity rate for men was around 3%. In 2016 that rate had risen to 11%, more than triple the rate in 1975. In 1975 the obesity rate for women was 6%. In 2016 that rate had risen to 15%, almost triple. We always hear about the obesity of the United States, which is absolutely staggering at 36.2%, but there is a key to a contributing problem for the world at large when you look at the “Countries with the Highest Prevalence of Obesity” chart (3). There are small Pacific Island nations that top that list. Most of their food is imported and expensive but fast food restaurants offer cheap food. There are Middle Eastern nations that also top that list in an area where western fast food is being increasingly welcomed and embraced. How many times per week do you or someone you love frequent the drive-thru? Do you see a pattern here? I have observed this problem repeatedly in my dealings with obesity, including my work to help an obese family member. The high salt, fat and sugar in most fast food creates a fast preference for these foods that borders on addiction. We gravitate towards these foods as much for the dense caloric intake as anything else because we have an instinct to pack in the calories to survive. In a world where food is scarce this instinct preserves our lives but in this world where so much food is available to so many, this instinct that is meant to sustain us becomes a nail in our coffins.

Dementia

It is a known fact that co-morbid conditions that arise from obesity such as insulin resistant diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease have negative consequences on the brain. A high BMI does increase the risk of dementia because of the hormone compounds that are secreted by fat cells. This is an area of ongoing research but as the BMI has increased, so has the incidence of various dementias. In my lifetime, the rate of both has soared.

Be Responsible

Look at the list in the first paragraph of this article, various cancers, heart disease, diabetes, is that the life that you want for yourself or for anyone that you love? We are so much more powerful than we understand. We hold the power of life and death in our hands so much of the time. Do you realize that you are the most powerful being in your life? Regardless of your situation, when you take control of your health and the health of those that you are able to influence, you become a superhero. Your resources may be limited. Your situation may be beyond difficult. You are still the most powerful being in your Universe. Take control and change the future for yourself and those you love.

(1) https://www.who.int/dietphysicalactivity/childhood/en/
(2) https://www.who.int/gho/ncd/risk_factors/overweight/en/

(3) https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/29-most-obese-countries-in-the-world.html

Be The Best You Can Be

This article is dedicated to my life long friend and mentor Ronnie Gray Cash. My brother from another mother.

Years ago I had the good fortune of having an older mentor who took me under his wing and taught me some valuable lessons about life. Despite being functionally illiterate, Ronny was an extraordinary craftsman and artist. I learned a great deal while watching him turn random pieces of wood, metal scraps and such into fine art, all the while talking to me about living life to the fullest. Ronnie taught me to be the very best I could possibly be at anything and everything I should ever take up in life. Actually, his admonition was to always be the damn best at every endeavor I should take on. He taught me that anything worth while to take up in life was worth putting a 100% effort into. He taught me to never slack at anything, and I have lived my life trying to live up to the lessons he taught me. The ultimate irony being with this highly intelligent man was that he had quit school at a very young age, about 13, in order to work and help support his family.

The most mesmerizing masterpiece Ronnie ever crafted was his rendition of an old time masted warship that he worked on for sixteen years before calling it done. No detail from bow to stern was missed, not even down inside the ship where he had crafted miniature cannons out of brass that could actually be loaded with a small amount of black powder in order to shoot bb’s. The female figurehead he carved for the bow was so finely detailed you could have imagined a woman posing for it while he carved. Looking at the ships steering wheel, you could imagine crashing through high waves in an unruly ocean while heading off to fight battles for country or plunder. I could dream of climbing up the ropes of the main mast to the Crows Nest with a telescope in hand to watch for signs of land in the distance such as the slight haze variation of the horizon you see when land is still quite far away. I could imagine the joy sailors would feel after months at sea when they would spot a sparrow, as these birds would always lead you back to shore. These little birds are such a part of sea going lore that sailors will often have a pair of sparrows tattooed on their chests or back to remind them to always return to their homes when they could. After I became an actual sailor I never got sparrow tattoos, but I did return home when I could where I could sit and chew the fat with my mentor, my brother Ronnie, and still learn lessons of life from this wise man despite my having been around the globe aboard Navy ship a few times in real life.

A good portion of who I am today is a result of my brother Ronnie Gray Cash taking me under his wing when I was still a wild ass teenager that was having a difficult time navigating life.

Today, Ronnie is now 70 years old, and I will be 56 in just a few short weeks. I have had my ups and downs in life as a good many other people have. But, no matter how hard life has kicked me when I was down and out, I have always got up and fought my way back to the top.

I get agitated when people tell me “that’s easy for you to say” when I give advice to them. Life has not always been kind to me either.

But, I always get back up.

In 1997, 16 years after enlisting, I lost my career in the Navy when our government decided to draw down our numbers in the armed forces. I went into a deep funk for a few years. A depression combined with Post Traumatic Stress that I began to believe I could not kick. I gained a tremendous amount of weight, and was no where near being in good physical condition. It was Ronnie’s words from the past that woke me to the reality that I was becoming a weak man. I was a 250 pound bloated slob when I decided to clean up my diet and to get back into shape physically and mentally.

I dropped 110 pounds from 250 pounds to 160 pounds with a 30 inch waist. I began running again, which made me once again enjoy life. Soon, I cleaned up my weight set and began lifting again. Next came mountain biking. By 2008, I was 45 years old and in top physical condition again. I was eating clean, weight training three days per week and biking 60 to 70 miles as well.

Also in 2008 I found out I could return to military service in the Army Reserve National Guard and would likely be able to return as a Staff Sergeant. I did not believe this would be true, but went to have a chat with a recruiter anyhow. He informed me that with my physical condition and military history he could indeed bring me back in as a Staff Sergeant. He also informed that a part of coming back in at this time meant that I was sure to have a combat tour in Iraq or Afghanistan, possibly both. These terms were acceptable to me. I re-enlisted, went home and asked my loving wife what she would think if I told her I could get back into military service. She looked at me and said the obvious, she instinctively knew I had joined and gave me her full support in finishing my military career even if it meant combat deployments.

Shortly after I signed my re-enlistment papers I was shipped off to the Army’s Warrior Transition Course at Fort Sill Oklahoma. The Warrior Transition Course (WTC) is essentially Basic Training for Veterans returning to military duty. At WTC we went through almost all the training basic recruits endure with the exception of only a few areas being as we were not raw basic recruits. I was not only one of three Staff Sergeants returning to duty, I was also anywhere between 15 to 20 years older than the 255 other soldiers in my training evolution. Because of my rank, I was automatically assigned the position of Platoon Sergeant over 85 other soldiers. I took it all in stride despite having been a Navy guy with no experience with the Army culture. I took the position and did my best, and I was good.

As a Platoon Sergeant, I led our morning physical fitness training and formation runs. I was just shy of turning 46 years old, but I still was able to physically out perform many if not most of my soldiers in our morning calisthenics. During our formation runs, as with Ruck Marches, my place as Platoon Sergeant was at the front of the formation leading the way. Because of my position, there was not going to be any falling back in the runs or ruck marches. Our morning formation runs were 5 miles, I set the pace and we went hard. Anything less would have had me getting swarmed by the Drill Sergeants as they already could not believe a 45 year old former sailor had the nerve to join their beloved Army in a senior leadership position. The same was true with our timed ruck marches where we had to go from Point A to Point B while carrying 100 pounds of combat gear in a prescribed amount of time. As difficult as this was, I lead from the front as a good Platoon Sergeant is expected to do. There was no allowance for me to slack because of my age. I was a Staff Sergeant and had to carry myself as so. Lack of experience with the US Army did not matter, I had to learn on the go, and had to be damn good at improvising when I did not know some of the established procedures set by the Army, and the particular Cadre running the training. I had to be on top of my platoon from before sun up to well after sun down. As the Platoon Sergeant, I made it a point to arise, shave and be dressed in my uniform before my troops were out of their bunks. At night, I did not retire to my bunk until I was sure I had given my troops the opportunity to speak with me about any of their injuries and or concerns. A good Non Commissioned Officer (NCO) will always place the welfare of his troops before those of his own. This I did, I took my NCO Creed to heart. I was damn good at my position.

As Ronnie taught me in my youth, be the best at what you take on in life.

In August 2009, I suffered a very debilitating spinal injury which brought my life to a screeching halt. I herniated the disk at L5 S1, squeezed it like a jelly donut to the point it encapsulated my sciatic nerve which caused permanent damage and now a life time of chronic pain from my right butt cheek all the way down to my right foot. Not a day goes by that I do not have some degree of discomfort if not outright pain.

As a result of this spinal injury, I endured a series of three epidural spinal injections. What these are is the doctor uses fluoroscopic x-ray guidance to inject a dye and then a steroid into the epidural space in the hopes it will decrease inflammation and your pain.The injections did not work for me.

November 2009, I underwent spinal surgery where the herniated disk material was removed along with a bit of arthritis that most of us over the age of 40 have in our spines. This was followed by 2 months of physical therapy after I healed, yet I still suffered a great deal of pain. I returned to the doctor and was sent for an MRI where it was confirmed that my sciatic nerve had been damaged and also was now scarred over. I was doomed to a life time of pain, and was told to never return to heavy weight training again in my life.

I was not content to lay around and not resume living my life to the fullest possible. I figured I could live in pain and be inactive, or I could live in pain and still enjoy my life as best I can. I had a choice to make and chose the latter. I decided to resume living as I see fit, and have zero regrets. I embrace tough challenges in life whether it is under the barbell, on a difficult hiking trail or in any other endeavor. I do not accept mediocrity out of myself. I began lifting again with an empty barbell and worked my way up to squatting and deadlifting over 400 pounds which caused my doctor a great deal of concern to say the least. I also began eating upwards of 6000 calories a day to fuel the heavy lifting I had worked up to and gained enough weight and body fat to skew my blood lab numbers some and also to cause a elevation in my blood pressure. But, I had proved to myself that despite what is sometimes crippling pain, I could still live my life fully.

People say it is easy for me to say when I give advice about diet and physical fitness.

Yet, none of them were ever there to see how many tears I shed when working to regain my mobility to squat to a proper competition depth, or just in getting myself into a good starting position to pull a heavy deadlift without once again injuring my spine. No, none of these people have ever seen me cry in pain after a workout that was triggering horrible sciatic pain brought on by a simple impingement of the damaged nerve. None of these people were there to know what it was like for me to learn to walk normal again. After my injury, it took me a year to learn to not have my right foot pointing out at an acute angle and dragging when I walked. Every step was a conscious effort in making my right foot do what it was supposed to do pre-injury. None of these people ever seen the tears of pain this brought on either.

I have always had good nutritional knowledge despite not always using it in my past. However, when I decided to lose the weight I had put on after my injury while rebuilding my capacity to train once again with heavy weights, I put this knowledge into use. I took off 70 pounds and dropped to 9% body fat which I maintain through clean eating and exercise. People always ask for nutritional advice and what do I do to stay fit and trim, I get the same answer from them quite often when I tell them I do not ever eat added sugar or processed foods, nor do I eat in restaurants. And, I exercise vigorously on a regular basis no matter how the rest of my week may be going. I always make time for physical fitness. I treat it with the same importance as I do my job, it must be done even when I do not feel like doing it. Period.

That’s easy for you to say!

What I want to know is why do they think it is easy for me. Granted, it is now, but I too have had an addiction to simple sugar and carbohydrates. I too know what it is like to get those cravings for food so bad that I would become “hangry”.

What I do know is that adopting my methodology is not impossible for those who try. I am not that different from anyone else except for the fact I do not ever take the easy road in life and I believe that when you take a difficult task and work it long enough, it will soon become easy. My dietary habits of clean eating, measuring and weighing my foods comes easy. It is just what I do, it is my lifestyle and I guarantee I can cook a full meal quicker and cheaper than you can go through a fast food drive through and order utter crap to feed yourself and your family. While this may be acceptable on occasion, you are doing yourself and your family a huge disservice when you feed them in this manner on a regular basis.

Friends, Brenda Sue and myself are certified by American Fitness Professionals & Associates as Nutritional and Wellness consultants. Our certification process required many hours of intensive study in order to become certified. We take nutrition and fitness seriously, and love sharing information with you, our wonderful readers from around the world. We both live the life that we teach to others. We live this every day, and despite our certifications being in hand, we still study nutrition and fitness in order to bring you the best and most current information with no sugar coating or bull shit. We tell it like it is, and pull no punches. Our blog is unique in that no one else brings you this information from a male and female perspective. We are unique in that we address weight loss and management from a holistic, whole body and mind approach in order to best serve you. We do not only address a limited number of topics, we address every aspect of what it takes to achieve and maintain a healthy and fit body. We put out this blog as a labor of love to help others and have never charged for any of the information in our over 500 articles and recipes.

We live to be the best we can be. We want to help you to also live to be the best that you can be in health and wellness. We believe hard work and discipline actually makes life simpler rather than harder. This may take a little effort, but a life without chaos is easier any day, any time. We believe in planning our days, weeks and months. We believe in measuring our goals in exercise and fitness. I know that my weight remains within ounces of being the same from week to week, yet I still weigh myself every Saturday morning first thing as a form of accountability to myself. When I train with my weights, I log every weight used for each lift along with every rep of every set. After all, how can you judge success if there is no measure? Remember too, what gets measured gets done.

Be the best you can be my friends, thank you for reading and God bless.

Beware The False Profits

As is often the case when one decides they want, or need, to change their body through weight loss or strength training, they have an idea of what they would like to look like yet have no idea what it is going to take to get there. Of course, the intelligent move is to find a supportive group of like minded people to help you along your journey of weight loss or sculpting. Being as it can be difficult to find actual people who are of the same mind, a logical place to go fr support is any of the many social media support forums. Strength training and body building web sights have excellent forums where you can interact with other meat heads whose eyes do not glaze over when discussing the finer points of a deadlift or bench press. There are good forums on weight loss web sites too where you can interact with others who are also trying to achieve a healthy body weight. Many times our close family and friends do not really understand, nor do they care about how many reps and sets you do on a given lift under the barbell, nor do they have any interest in counting calories every day in order to maintain a healthy level of body fat. Face it, with all the obese and sedentary people among us today, you will find that a lot of them actually may despise your attempts to be a better and healthier you. Don’t believe this, try talking about exercise and good nutritional habits with one who obviously cares nothing at all about living healthy Refusing a piece of birthday cake, can sometimes bring scorn from those you are close to. This being the case for many, the obvious choice for support is often online forums where hopefully you can share your struggles and triumphs without being judged in a negative manner.

Don’t believe your lying eyes.

When it comes to body building or sculpting through strength training, following Instagram seems a good place to find inspiration of what you can do with your body. Instagram is full of pictures of people in phenomenal shape. You will find pictures of men and women whose body’s are muscular and very well defined. You will find a plethora of people who have single digit body fat percentages as if these body types are the norm. If you want to sculpt your body, there is no shortage of body’s you might want to emulate on Instagram.

However, what you do not see is the work and total dedication it takes for these people to achieve their physiques. You do not see the extreme dieting some of these folks go through to look so ripped for a picture shoot. You do not see the lens filters nor body make up that create the images you want to copy for yourself. You do not see the hours on set where countless pictures are taken for only a few select to make it out for public consumption. There is always much more than meets the eye with many of these Instagram models. That being said…

For those who are legitimately healthy through all natural means, you do not see the many hours dedicated towards healthy nutrition or exercise. You have no concept of how many months, or more likely years, these people have spent towards looking a certain way. For most if not all people, it is naive to believe you can take your unfit body and recreate it into one fitting for a Instagram model pictorial in only a few short months.

It is perfectly alright to look towards people on Instagram for inspiration to create a better and healthier body for yourself. But if you do this, please ensure that you temper your expectations with reality and common sense. Understand that not all of these people actually look like the images you see portrayed in their professional photo shoots. Do not sell yourself short by attempting to become what is a manufactured image.

Use caution when dealing with the celebrities on popular weight loss forums.

When it comes to losing weight, many people are not surrounded by others who are supportive of their journey. A good many might find themselves actually being sabotaged by loved ones. If you have experienced this, you can attest to how you might have just celebrated a loss on the scale, only for your significant other or someone else bringing cake and ice cream into your home and consuming it in your presence. This is aggravating as all hell when you have a weakness for these sweet treats that you are attempting to defeat. If you find yourself not being supported, it is a positive move to use a forum on your weight loss web sight or app. Weight Watchers has their Connect social media forum where you can potentially interact with over one hundred thousand other individuals on journeys very similar to your own.

On Connect, you will find others who are just beginning the program as you might be, as well as many who have made their goal weight and maintained it for many years. It can be a wonderful place for support when you are trying to get your weight down to a healthy BMI level. On this particular weight loss social media, you will find many people who are extremely helpful and can help you navigate your way through the Weight Watchers program, and then, there are those who have become popular celebrities of Connect where you have to take them with a grain of salt, or totally reject them.

The smart money is to reject those who appear to be building a cult of personality. You want to reject those who get angry when you question their methods or advice. You want to reject those who have stories that do not align with reality. You might want to watch how these cult builders interact with others who have asked them questions only to get vague or rude answers in return. When this happens, it is because they are frauds who care nothing about helping anyone but themselves, even if they portray themselves as everyones cheerleader.

As on Instagram, you might find a few individuals whose images appear to be entirely manufactured for who knows what purpose. You might find an individual who has all sorts of advice yet you can only find a before picture of them and others that are fairly current, with zero to be found from the middle of their journey of weight loss. This should be a red flag to you.

Be leary of the individual on a weight loss forum who is well over 50 years old, claims to have lost 100 pounds in a short time, who is also very lean and cut, and has no visible sagging, excess, leftover skin. While it may be possible, it is not likely that one this age can get down to a single digit body fat percentage with a one hundred pound loss, and not have signs of loose skin unless they have had a procedure to get rid of it. A surgical procedure is fine, if needed and you can afford it. What I am getting at is one who claims to be all natural with no procedures. This kind of individual you should not attempt to emulate, exactly because they are not truthful in how they met their goal.

Be mindful of the fool who only appears to know his business about physical fitness simply because he can afford a lot of equipment, yet has little understanding of physiology, as evident from their self inflicted injuries that have occurred simply as a result of their physical fitness routines. When you see one hopping around while doing push ups and/or doing clapping push ups, know that they have no concept their shoulders are not meant for this kind of stress.

If you see one who does any type of resistance exercise in a manner totally different than anything you have ever seen or heard of, you might not want to emulate them as there may just be a very legitimate reason you have never seen their movements before. Be leary of taking advice from one who appears like they should be interacting on a body building forum rather than collecting followers on a social media designed for those who are not in shape and attempting to get there. There is likely an explainable lame ass reason why they are establishing themselves as King of the Hill where no real competition exists to them.

The bottom line.

If you have made the descision to lose weight in order to improve your health, good on you. Congrats on making a life changing choice for your betterment. When you begin this journey, you want to proceed in a healthy manner where you learn to eat nutritiously and ease your way into physical fitness if your doctor has cleared you to do so.

It is really imperative that you find a support network where you can be lifted up when your plan falters, and a place where you can celebrate your achievments with others who truly appreciate your efforts. But, along the way, be extra mindful of those who sit atop pedestals of their own creation, who appear to be the picture of perfect health and fitness. Sometimes, what you see is deceptive marketing by professionals or those with an agenda of some sort. While you should aim your sights high, be leary of trying to hit an unrealistic target unless you are prepared to expend the time and efforts to get there with the knowledge that some of these superstars are actually damaging their very own health in order to look like a million bucks.

If you are female, be extra leary of the guy’s who are building a cult of personality on social media, and who also seem to only attract female followers. There are predators out there who seem nice online that might actually be setting you up for a personal encounter with ill intent in their hearts.

If you follow social media as a means of support, ensure you procede with caution, knowledge and common sense. If you get a bad vibe about ones sincerity, trust your instinct and avoid them. Go forth on your betterment journey with the sole intent on being the best you that you can be, and do not worry yourself with attempting to look like a social media celebity. Many of them are false profits, even when they give themselves cute little names and do cute little things in order to get you to follow them.

Be your own person, be the best you can be and have no regrets.

Life Hack of The Iron

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I have learned many things from strength training. Today, with guidance from my Trainer, I have learned the greatest Truth of the Iron. “When we fix our lifts, we learn how to fix our lives.” (David Yochim)

“You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know.” (David Yochim)
When I first began heavy weight lifting I was at the physically weakest point of my life. I didn’t know this until I picked up a barbell and could only squat 35 pounds. If I’ve ever been any more embarrassed, I don’t remember it. I don’t usually get embarrassed. What is, is. But, when I squatted with 35 pounds and struggled to stand up, I could have just gone through the floor to escape facing the truth of my physical condition. I daresay that was not a deep squat either. Although I squatted as deeply as I thought I could at the time, now I know that it was nowhere close to proper depth. I have discovered that not hitting depth puts an incredible strain on me because I don’t activate my glutes and hamstrings properly to stand. I was making what was already hard, harder with improper form. We do the same thing in other parts of our lives. We make things harder than they have to be by doing them the wrong way or just allowing ourselves to do less than our best. If we give every nuance of every lift our undivided attention to detail, we will do much better. The same thing applies to other aspects of our lives. I have an extremely difficult, high-stress job. The better I focus, the easier the job is. If I allow myself to lose focus while doing a menial task at home, that task becomes difficult. I have learned this from the Iron. Since my weights are heavier now, focus is not only mandatory for the lift, it’s mandatory for safety. This applies to a road trip. Don’t lose focus on the interstate at 80 mph. It could end badly.

Proper Preparation

Last night, although I was front squatting a weight that I had not squatted before, I was not pleased with my lift. I wanted to get more reps. As I analyzed what might have been wrong, I thought about my preparation. Last week when I was pleased with this lift, I had gone out of my way prepping. My calories were perfect and I ate them early enough that they were pulsing through my system when I needed them, I had an excellent pre-workout, I had the most adrenaline pumping music in existence blasting in my dungeon. Last night, I struggled through a mandatory continuing education course, stuffed the remaining calories for the day in my mouth at the last minute, skipped the pre-workout and started lifting without music. There was so much wrong with this picture for me because I know what I need to have a good session. I didn’t do it. I was not pleased with the results. How often do we do this in other areas of our lives? I got bit by a rattlesnake in 2016 due to stupidity. I know exactly what I did wrong. We do things like this all the time with that still, small voice screaming instructions in our ears. The Iron will not yield to me unless I approach it prepared. Everything works this way.

Analysis

Even as I lumbered up the stairs to my bedroom, I began to analyze my lift. Without analysis there is no learning. I combed each moment of my approach, my breathing, my focus. It was in this moment that I began to see the discrepancies between this week’s squat and last week’s squat. Unless we examine ourselves, we will never improve. I was not happy with that lift. I wanted more. Even though lifting is a lifestyle, not an ever increasing exhibition of strength and ego, I still wanted more. I knew that I was off and when I began to analyze my day, a cascade of differences in this week and last week flooded my brain. How often do we encounter difficulty and disappointment in other areas and we just chalk it up as a lesson learned when nothing was actually learned because we did not analyze our behavior? Self examination is necessary for growth and mastery of every area of our lives. I have learned a very practical application of this through the Iron. Unless I analyze my behavior with it, there will be no progress. I must correct myself as I go. Most of the time when we stall out in life it’s because we do not correct ourselves. We’re too busy correcting other people. Regardless of what I do to that Iron, it’s me that must yield and adapt. Only then will my relationship to the Iron be all that I want it to be. This applies to every relationship. Analyze your behavior, adjust, adapt.

Wisdom

I was one of the ones who thought that weight lifting was just picking up heavy stuff and putting it down. That’s because I had never lifted heavy. I had lifted but not heavy. There are so many benefits to exerting my muscles to their limits, pushing as hard as I can, refusing to quit and doing it with proper form. This is true work. I have learned that I can endure and accomplish more than I would have ever believed. The key here is proper form. Do it the right way. I cannot make progress in the number of pounds that I lift over my lifetime, unless I do it the right way. If I do not learn and practice proper form, sooner or later I will fail and most likely get seriously injured. This is true of life. We can haphazardly go about our lives if we want to because it seems easier at the time but we will never accomplish all that we are capable of unless we do it the right way. The right way maximizes our efforts, that’s why it’s the right way. The heavier the weights, the greater the risk and the greater the benefits. This is also true in other areas. Hard jobs with a lot of responsibility and power and influence over other people’s lives are high risk for the employee and the people affected by their performance. The benefits of those jobs are immense for all concerned when they are done right. Great relationships with intelligent, articulate, creative people are wonderful when treated with mutual respect. Everything has to be done with proper form.

Those Days

And then there are those days… You know… Those days when you prepare and analyze and do it right and apply everything you know and the Iron still won’t cooperate. The people won’t cooperate. The Universe won’t cooperate… Those are the days that my Trainer sums up like this. “It’s heavy.” (David Yochim) Sometimes stuff is just hard. Don’t quit. It’s a lifestyle.

Go Hike For Stress Relief

I absolutely love getting out and hiking in the deep woods for not only great exercise, but also as a means to drastically reduce the stress in my life. At fifty five years old, I find myself feeling like a kid again when discovering new trails. It matters little whether the trail is easy with a well prepared walkway. Or a tough one as in today. I completed what turned into a grueling eleven mile hike on a completely natural trail that ranged anywhere from moderate to difficult skill levels to navigate.

A good portion of my hike today was on very rocky paths that took me up and down very steep hills. This picture does little justice at displaying how steep the trail was.

I chose this trail today for it’s level of difficulty. I embrace challenge. Over coming tough challenges helps us to grow as individuals. When we kick a challenge in the ass and find success, it bolsters our confidence to do even bigger and better things in life. Traversing this rocky trail without rolling an ankle was about as tough as some of my weight training sessions. Getting through obstacles such as steep hills with loose rocks and wet clay brings the same satisfaction as I receive in my weight room when I squat down with a heavy barbell on my back, and then manage to stand back up in order to complete another rep or two.

Creating challenges for ourselves to defeat helps us to also overcome other life challenges. We may have a tough job that is a daily grind physically, or mentally. Or we may have very difficult circumstances in our homes such as caring for critically ill family members. Being capable of overcoming great physical challenges might not make our jobs or home lives any simpler, but the confidence we earn through getting through overcoming goes a long way in keeping our stress levels down. When we are confident, we can face the day without fear. When we are confident in ourselves, we can keep chaos at bay. When we are confident in meeting the most difficult of challenges head on, we become capable of maintaining a cool demeanor when the proverbial shit is hitting the fan. My hike today was tough enough to make me realize that everything else I was going to face this weekend pales in comparison to ascending a twenty four percent grade hill on a path that was covered with loose rocks, or slicked up with wet clay. There were points on this hike, climbing the steep terrains, where my legs were beginning to spasm from the the exertion along with my electrolyte balance being a little off. The spasms were quite painful, yet comforting as I knew that nothing else in my day was going to challenge me as much as I had challenged myself.

Of course not every length of todays trail was difficult. I did have a few areas that were quite the respite from that which was kicking my ass. AS much as I embrace the challenge of difficult exercise, I also enjoy just being in the outdoors on an easy path where I can just take in the nature that surround me. I love these trails over the course of the year where you can watch as the trees and undergrowth all come back to life in the spring, the greenness of the summer months, followed by the beatiful colors of fall. Even the winter months bring joy and stress relief as with all the vegetaion going dormant for the cold weather, this time of year affords you more opportunity to see the wildlife what call these woods their home.

There is actually very good reason why being outdoors in the woods makes us more relaxed and happy people. The Japanese have a practice called Shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing. Shinrin-yoku is a practice that celebrates the health improving qualities of the forest.

There have been studies conducted which have confirmed that spending time out in the woods or forest can reduce psychological stress, depressive symptoms, and hostility. I believe this as I have never, not once, have I encountered anyone on a wooded trail that seemed to be anything other than content and happy. I’m not saying they do not have stressful difficulties in life, hell I have my difficulties along with Post Traumatic Stress too. Yet the woods are soothing to anyone who ventures out and set their minds free to enjoy nature in it’s grand splendor.

Studies have shown that a day in the woods can help you sleep better and make you feel more lively while you are out. A day in the woods has been shown to reduce the stress hormone cortisol, and to lower your blood pressure and pulse rate.

Studies have shown that even just the smell of trees has positive health benefits. Chemicals secreted by trees, called phytoncides, have been linked to improved immune defense as well as a reduction in anxiety and an increase in pain tolerance.

Other studies have shown that children with ADHD who play in a green outodoor environment, rather than inside, have a decrease in thier symptoms. I’m not sure why this even requires a study to figure out as playing outside forces a child to learn to use their imagination to expand upon their natural creativity in order to have fun. Who can argue this point. Is their anything healthy or creative about allowing your child to sit on the duff, playing video games while snarfing down sugary sweet treats you likely bought for them. It is not rocket science to see the change in children over the last couple of decades where it is no longer unusual for a child to live an obese and sedentary lifestyle their parents have foolishly given them. If you want to do your children a huge favor in life, get rid of all the snacks, unplug their electronic devices and make them go outside to play. My God, we have children and adolescents living on psychotropic drugs in this modern world, when what they really need is to discover life as it is meant to be lived.

You can bet that kids who are allowed, and encouraged to be active outside are on fewer psychotropics than chldren who are allowed to vege our in front of their televisions. I can say with certainty that playing in the woods as a young boy helped me to develop my problem solving skills for life. Building tree houses and secret forts to hang out in with buddies, along with building temporary dams down at the creek in order to have a private swimming hole were the order of the day. We partook in all of these activites and grew into well adjusted adults.

Being outdoors in the woods means there is a fair degree of exercise taking place. Physical exercise is a proven solution for many ailments, including fatigue, depression, anxiety and of course obesity. Combining the benefits of movement in a wooded environment is a healthy method of overcoming many of your ailments in life. If you want to do one really healthy thing for yourself today, get your butt outside and go for a good walk around your neighborhood, or even better, go take a hike in the woods.

If you are interested in taking your hikes up a notch, read our article on the benefits of using trekking poles here.

Fitness Newbie, You Do Not Know What You Do Not Know

Every day someone, somewhere makes a decision to begin getting their body more physically fit. They randomly decide on an exercise program they believe they might enjoy and then once the going gets tough, they burn out and quit. There are many thousands of homes where fitness equipment which is no longer being used has turned into a high dollar clothing rack, a convenient place to hang clean clothes as they come out of the washer and or dryer.

Once your treadclimber has become a fancy clothing rack, your level of fitness you may have achieved with it is going to drop off more rapidly than it took for you to achieve it.

You do not own your level of fitness. You must continue paying your dues for it, or it will leave you high and dry.

Do your research before you begin!

If running has never been your interest in the past, then it would be unreasonable to go out and spend several hundred dollars on a spiffy new treadmill will all the different programs and workout levels.

If you have never been one to consider strength training, then do not purchase the nicest weight equipment at your local sporting goods store. A squat rack can hold a lot of hanging clothes once you have tired of it.

You will find that once you have tired of your new workout regimen, the different internet market places such as Craig’s List is full of used gym equipment being sold for pennies on the dollar. If you want to buy home gym equipment, then try and find decent used stuff online that way you are not out near as much of your hard earned cash if you do not stick with it.

I hope you have done all of your homework and have decided on how you are now going to whip your body into shape.

I’m going to mainly use weight training as an example in this piece, but the principles can be applied to any type of exercise if you are an absolute newbie to physical fitness. If you want to be serious about physical fitness, you owe it to yourself to learn as much as you can about your endeavor before you spend a bunch of money on equipment.

You do not know what it is that you do not know.

If you are new to physical fitness, you have on clue how much it is that you do not know about that which you are about to pursue.

Running is not just a matter of lacing up a pair of sneakers and hitting the track. No, it is about learning to find your stride. It is about learning how to breath. It is about learning to put these two factors together in order to build upon your speed and distance.

Weight training is not just about loading weight plates on a barbell and then just picking it up and setting it down for as many times as you can with the heaviest weight you can lift.

If you have went out and bought a weight set, did you first read up and study any type of programming?

Do you understand linear progression and progressive overload?

Do you believe that by simply doing curls, tricep kick backs, along with a few sets of bench press your body is going to become fit and toned? Do you have any idea that for a muscle to grow, strength to be gained, or for any other improvements to be made, your body must be forced to adapt to a tension that is above and beyond what it has previously experienced?

Are you truly ready for hard work?

When you first begin lifting weights, your strength will increase fairly quickly for up to the first year while you are in the newbie stage. This can extend out a few more months, but eventually those gains are going to slow down and stall. Are you prepared to keep after it when the going gets fucking hard? Or, are you just going to puss out and quit?

More people just quit than there are people who keep leaning forward and driving on. Are you a quitter or one who refuses to quit? Have you ever tested yourself to even know if you have what it takes to keep pushing once your gains slow to a trickle? Champions are the types who ever quit even when it would make their lives much simpler.

Will you have days where your physical fitness comes first over everything except your your job?

Physical fitness requires dedication. If you set aside days and times to exercise, then by god use those days and times for your exercise. It becomes easy to make excuses to skip workouts. And the more you do this, the easier it becomes. When you skip a day of exercise, that day can turn into a week which can turn into a month or longer. Next thing you know, your strength gains have been all but lost and you are finding the motivation to begin once again to be quite elusive. If you are not a natural self starter, that motivation might be as hard to find as Sasquatch. Physical fitness requires an all in attitude for it to have any significant relevance in your life.

No matter which endeavor you take on to improve your level of physical fitness, remember that success is less about the big wins than it is about the little things that we do every day to build upon our health and fitness. We have to make our exercise sessions into regular habits of life, as habits are what we fall back on when we are stressed or do not feel like pushing ourselves through another workout.

Three considerations for physical fitness:

  • Cardiorespiratory endurance. This element is the sustained ability of the heart and blood vessels to carry oxygen to your body’s cells. The best aerobic activities you can use for building endurance are brisk walking or running, swimming, cycling, rowing and aerobic dance. To gain the best health benefits, 30 minutes of moderate physical activity over the course of most days is sufficient. For the best of cardiovascular endurance you need to perform moderate to high intensity aerobic exercise three to five times per week, with each session lasting 30 to 60 minutes.
  • Muscular fitness. This physical element consists of strength. The force a muscle produces in one effort and endurance. Your muscular fitness hinges on your ability to perform repeated muscle contractions in quick succession. Perform moderate intensity resistance workouts at least three to four days per week for no less than 30 minutes per session.
  • Flexibility. This element refers to the ability of the joints to move without discomfort through their full range of motion. This ability varies from person to person and from joint to joint. Good flexibility is thought to protect the muscles against pulls and tears, since short tight muscles are more likely to be over stretched. Perform flexibility exercises three to four times per week.

Ten exercise guidelines:

  1. Set realistic goals for yourself. It serves no purpose to set goals that are so lofty you never have a chance of achieving them. If you set high goals, be sure to set many short term goals as a part of your plan to reach your final objective.
  2. Do not do too much, too soon. Just as sure as you attempt to do too much too soon, you are likely to either get injured or burned out too soon. Or, you can become injured and burned out at the same time. Remember, nutrition and rest days are as important to your routine as your actual exercise.
  3. No pain, no gain is a myth you should not get caught up in. Being in pain is not a sign of a good workout, as not feeling pain is not a sign of a poor workout. Pain is a warning to you that you had better check yourself to avoid injury and or to not worsen injury. Do not be a fucking hero and and try to work through injuries. Take you lumps and knock off until you are healed. Only a dumbass will continue stressing an injury.
  4. Control your movements. Rapid, jerky movements can set the stage to fuck yourself up.
  5. Watch your form and posture. This is extremely important with all lifts, but especially the squat and deadlift. Bad form can and will hurt your ass.
  6. Do not bounce when stretching. When you bounce, you increase your risk of tearing a muscle. If you are going to stretch, make sure you ease into all of your stretching.
  7. Use good and proper footwear. If you want to run, damn sure get good shoes that fit your feet snugly from heel to toe, side to side, top to bottom. Ensure you have proper arch support. If you are weight training, be sure to have shoes that do not have a sole that is compressible. You want your feet solid with the ground when lifting heavy weights on squats and deadlifts.
  8. Avoid high impact aerobics and other high impact exercises. Otherwise you stand risk of injury to your shins, calves, lower back, ankles and knees because of the constant jarring. Go low impact and enjoy yourself.
  9. Make sure that you warm up and cool down as appropriate for the activity you have chosen. This prevents an abrupt drop in blood pressure and helps alleviate muscle stiffness.
  10. Replace fluids and electrolytes lost during exercise. Do this even when you do not feel thirsty and know that you are as high a risk for dehydration in cold weather as you can be during hot.